Months before people from all over the world descend on Washington, D.C., for the annual Cherry Blossom festival, a different group of worldly individuals travel to the nation’s capital from Duke University. Every January, first and second-year fellows in the Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) go to Washington to attend presentations and learn from a variety of nonprofit, government and financial agencies. This trip offers them the chance to meet with MIDP graduates, network and learn about potential internships.
On the January 2013 trip, one MIDP fellow from Turkey was initially not interested in internship opportunities. Muhsin Atci had eight years of experience as a tax inspector in Turkey before enrolling in the MIDP program.
“As a tax inspector or government officer, I was not looking for an internship, nor did I really have much of an idea about internships,” he said. “But when I learned of the opportunity at the D.C. trip, I finally got the idea that it would be really great for me if I could get some opportunity in the World Bank because my country has a very close relationship with the World Bank.”
In Turkey, there is a tradition where tax inspectors study abroad, particularly in the United States, but Atci deviated from tradition when he chose a different school than most of his colleagues.
“There are a few universities that are known in my country, but I tried to find a different university and a different program,” he said. “I searched on the internet for tax concentrations and saw the International Taxation Program at Duke. The focus was exactly in my field. I am a tax inspector and I know Turkish law and taxation, but I had no experience in international issues or international taxation.”
Atci took advantage of the variety of taxation courses offered at Duke, even going as far as taking the same course twice because it was taught by Peter Barnes, who had spent 22 years as Senior International Tax Counsel with General Electric.
“My first year of the program, I took a value-added tax (VAT) course with Professor Shukla and Professor Glenday, and in my second year I learned that Peter Barnes would teach that same course,” he said. “I took the course again. These professors are very knowledgeable and it is not every day that someone is able to get the opportunity to listen and learn from such distinguished faculty.”
His knowledge gained at Duke also helped him at his internship at the World Bank, where he focused on performance budgeting, the practice of developing budgets based on funding levels and expected outcomes.
“Everything I knew about performance budgeting I learned at Duke from Professor Shukla and Professor Glenday,” he said.
He even learned more about his own country during his internship at the World Bank.
“I worked on a financial report of the countries of East Europe and Central Asia, of which Turkey was included, and I connected with a lot of people who also work in Turkey and actually learned a lot about my own country from these people.”
Maybe even more satisfying than the academic knowledge he accrued, he said, was his experience with his colleagues at Duke.
“The best thing about the program is the diversity. I learned something from the courses, as can be expected, but I also learned really great things from my friends,” he said. “This diversity is unique, it is not possible to find that kind of diversity and knowledgeable persons altogether in another program.”
Atci returned to Turkey from his internship in early August, and while his time has been mainly spent with his 1 ½ year old son and 6-year-old daughter, there is no doubt in Atci’s mind that when he returns to work he will be able to put into practice the knowledge he gained at Duke.
“I know the Turkish experience, but I didn’t know international experiences,” he said. “Everything I learned, all of it, is helpful for my day-to-day life.”